Clouds of smoke and steam billow around space shuttle Atlantis as it roars off Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy space Center in Florida.  Photo: NASA/Fletcher Hildreth

Clouds of smoke and steam billow around space shuttle Atlantis as it roars off Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy space Center in Florida. Photo: NASA/Fletcher Hildreth

John M. Grunsfeld ′80 and Michael J. Massimino SM ′88, SM ′88, ENG ′90, ME ′90, PhD ′92 are back in space aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis for the final in a series of five missions to make repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. The alums, along with five other crew members of the STS-125 mission, lifted off yesterday around 2 pm EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

During their first full day in orbit, NASA reported that the Atlantis astronauts had begun a standard survey of the shuttle’s heat shield to check for damage incurred during liftoff. After the inspection, the crew plans to check out tools they will use with the Hubble, as well as new spacesuits.

The next 11 days and five spacewalks will provide the crew ample time to make repairs and upgrades to the Hubble, fine tuning it for at least another five years of research.

Since the Hubble took orbit in 1990, NASA says it has helped answer crucial scientific questions and provided images that have awed and inspired the world.

“We’ve actually seen an object that emitted its light about 13 billion years ago,” said Hubble senior scientist Dave Leckrone. “Since the universe is 13.7 billion years old, that’s its infancy, the nursery. From the nearest parts of our solar system to further back in time than anyone has ever looked before, we’ve taken ordinary citizens on a voyage through the universe.”

Interested in the mission? Read the STS-125 blog and view the Atlantis photo gallery.

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